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Posted on Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 6:07 a.m.

Backers of Ann Arbor's Percent for Art program must remain vocal in supporting it

By Tony Dearing

Art is inherently controversial.

Most people will not present themselves as experts in math or science or engineering, but everyone is an art critic. Art evokes strong opinion and reaction. So, it seems, does Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art program.


The sculpture by German artist Herbert Dreiseitl

Angela J. Cesere |

The program, which takes 1 percent of funds spent on certain public works projects and sets it aside for art, is facing a cacophony of criticism. The Ann Arbor City Council has entertained motions to scale back the program. In a recent poll on, more than 900 people responded and 56 percent said it should be done away with altogether.

Against such an onslaught, those who support the program must continue to be vocal in defending the value - both intangible and economic - of public art. Today, we join them by reaffirming our strong support of the Percent for Art concept. At the same time, we see valid concerns about the program, and hope they can be addressed in a way that leads to broader acceptance over time.

The case for public art was made when the program was approved in 2007. A well-run public art program enhances the visibility and reputation of a community, attracting visitors, new residents and economic development. World-class art helps make us a world-class destination.

None of that, of course, makes the program immune from criticism. Is it art? Is it “worth’’ the price that was paid for it? Given the nature of art, there will always be such questions. A harsh economy intensifies the objections of those who view art as a luxury. In Ann Arbor, the Percent for Art program also has become a foil for people whose real concern is some of the city’s other spending priorities - particularly public safety.

Elsewhere across the country, communities are enthusiastically promoting the arts as a way to boost economic development and attract visitors. How incongruous that a city like Grand Rapids, which is the epicenter of conservative politics in Michigan, would embrace the ArtPrize competition and aggressively market itself as an arts destination while Ann Arbor, which views itself as progressive and is much more associated with the arts, is at war with itself over public art.

We understand - and very much share - the concern right now over recent budget cuts to police and fire services. That’s why the city must continue to hammer home the point that money for public art comes from funds dedicated to infrastructure, and if it weren’t spent on art, it would go back to those funds. It can’t be spent on public safety. This city is capable of funding both public art and police officers. Anyone who seeks to pit the two against each other either doesn’t understand the issue or is being disingenuous.

Critics also have asked why the Percent for Art dollars aren’t being used to support local artists - particularly after the first major work, in front of city hall, was commissioned to German artist Herbert Dreiseitl. The city has been correct to point out that more than $600,000 of the project’s $750,000 cost went to Michigan-based firms that were involved in the installation. But we challenge the thinking that there’s something wrong with commissioning work from outside the city or state. Should the University Musical Society not bring the Berlin Philharmonic to Hill Auditorium because it’s not made up of local performers? Seriously, Ann Arbor’s ability to attract nationally or internationally renowned artists in either visual or performing arts is a tribute to our city, not something to disparage.

We would, however, like to see more balance in the program so that public art can be more integrated into locations across the city and local artists have more opportunity to participate. That may require a change in the ordinance, which restricts the funds for use on permanent art displays on city property.

We also are troubled that the city has been amassing far more money in the public art fund than it has the capacity to put to use. So far, only two projects have been installed and the fund currently has about $1.7 million sitting unspent. Granted, it took some time to ramp up the program, and turnover in city staff that serves the volunteer Public Art Commission also has contributed to delays. But four years into the program, it’s either time for the commission to improve its capacity for approving projects, or time for the city to assess how much money it’s setting aside for art.

That could occur through a re-examination of all the sources of funds from which it draws. Council members Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, and Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, have questioned whether it’s appropriate to tap the street millage for public art, and council is likely to revisit that issue later this year. We also would not contend that there’s anything magic about the 1 percent figure. At a time when the city has been spending heavily on infrastructure, even 1 percent amounts to a lot of money. We’re open to a discussion about whether the city might adjust the percentage being set aside. City officials certainly shouldn’t be happy with the amount of money sitting unspent in the fund right now.

On Nov. 14, City Council will meet with the Public Art Commission for a working session to assess how the program has gone so far, and to consider adjustments to it. We welcome that examination. The public art program is a worthy endeavor that we continue to unapologetically support, but listening to criticism is an opportunity to improve the program in a way that leads to the greatest aesthetic and economic benefit possible. Ann Arbor does, after all, owe much to art. As a city, we should not just recognize that but embrace it.

Editor’s note: This editorial was published in today's newspaper and reflects the opinion of the Editorial Board at Marsha Chamberlin, who serves as a community member on our Editorial Board, is chairwoman of the Public Art Commission and did not participate in our deliberations on this issue.



Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

Art throughout history was supported with private funds. The greatest works of art were commissioned by the wealthy (yes, wealthy people were a benefit to all, imagine that). Do away with it the %. The public benefits more from infrastructure and public safety. Art is fluff. You don't paint a house that is falling apart before you fix it.


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 11:54 a.m.

One problem is that the commenting policy is encouraging critics and discouraging supporters - of just about everything. Critics can say nearly anything they want about the elected officials who put something in place - as long as it's not vulgar. Supporters have to be respectful of the critics - even of their points of view. It's not enough to avoid ad hominem attacks on other commenters, you have to avoid attacking their ideas, lest that be called disrespectful to the people themselves. Another problem is that you make no effort to distinguish people who live in Ann Arbor from those who don't. In a lot of cases, we should only be marginally interested in what people who don't live here think about our local policies. We don't have only 'one government' in the area, and now that you're on the internet, there's good reason to believe that a number of the commenters aren't local at all. As to the 1% for art program, I would recommend that Council change the funding slightly. The 1% should only be put into the fund only when city revenues are rising, and the percentage should only be a result of increasing revenue due to property value increases. So if the increase in funds is due to a rate increase or a millage increase, there should be no increase in funding. It would be reasonable to put a 'sunset' clause in that last rule, so that increases in funding from property value increases start to take effect on new rate/millage increases after a few years. For example, if revenues are increasing because property values are rising, and a new millage is passed, maybe four years after the millage is passed, the increase in revenue due to the increase in the millage counts for the 1%. Before that four-year window is up, the full increase due to the millage goes toward the millage purpose. So the 1% for art would be a result of a TIFF-like program. Also, one last restriction, if city revenues are falling, funding should fall too, or stop.


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 12:51 a.m.

"Backers of Ann Arbor's Percent for Art program must remain vocal in supporting it" And those opposing it must be more vocal!


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 1:17 a.m.

absolutely !!!


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

I completely and totally disagree with your op/ed piece, as does almost every other commenter on this site.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 9:02 p.m.

There is only one art piece in Ann Arbor that truly inspires, involves the community, and even draws in people from out of town: The Rock on the corner of Hill and Washtenaw. And guess what? It was/is completely free, unlike that overrated, overpriced, and dubiously finance scuplture downtown. Also, very weak argument for an op-ed article.

Kai Petainen

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

Top 3 pieces of art to show someone from out of town. 1. The rock. 2. The cube. 3. The swing at the museum.

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 8:36 p.m.

Guess while you were working up this editorial, you missed the boat on's favorite group, SPARK and its failings in Livingston County. How come? <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

hut hut

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

@Craig Lounsbury. Don't be silly. It's obvious that Michelangelo was far more than an artist. By your claim if we hold anything visualized by the mind and created by hands to that standard, almost everything that came before and after pales in comparison. That cuts out a lot of artists and several hundred years of human creative efforts in painting, sculpture, books, etc. Are you saying that when students are taught about art and artists that they are being fooled and their instructors are stupid know nothings by inclding other artists (sorry but I know you only recognize the Italian masters)? Are you saying that only Michelangelo should be taught to students as a bona fide artist? If so then maybe we should close the art schools, museums and galleries because the artists they exhibit don't measure up to your standards. To claim that Driesetl's water sculpture is not art is not only your opinion but it's also beyond comprehension. If what he designed and others made by hand is mere decoration, he should make tiny cardboard copies and sell them at K Mart for $5. I'm not a fan of how council handled this and rammed it thru, but Driesetl's piece is art by any definition.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 12:57 a.m.

you missed my point completely. You couldn't have missed it more completely if you didn't even read it.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

The only art here is the City of Ann Arbor making the Ann Arbor tax payer to pay for city official's pet projects.

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.

&quot;Ray Detter and his committees have spent hours and hours of time asking for funding, doing research and writing commentary, and local artists and architects have created the beautiful and informative monuments. Those &quot;sculptures&quot; are not only art; they are educational!&quot; Kudos to Ray Detter raising private funds for the project you mention. No thanks to Ray Detter for being on the subcommittee for AAPAC with other contributors to the Mayor's past political campaigns that ramrodded the City Center Building artwork through the process and rubber stamped a deal done in private behind closed doors. He deserves no thanks for his part in that fiasco.

Robert Stone

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 6:40 p.m.

I have an editorial I'd like to have published. It's called: &quot;Backers of Ann Arbor's Percent for Art program must donate their own money if they expect everyone else to contribute their tax dollars&quot; Why is this concept so difficult for people to understand? If the city can't get art backers to donate even 10% of the art budget themselves then one really has to question what sort of real backing this has from the public. And please.... Art may be controversial but telling other people what sort of art they value and forcing other people to pay for what you want isn't &quot;art&quot;. Or is this a new kind of performance art that I haven't heard of? If so I call it &quot;If I want your opinion I'll give it to you&quot;-ism.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 5:24 p.m.

&quot;Art isn't an extra that's 'nice' to have. It is every bit as necessary as Police or Fire or Roads or Sewers.&quot; Really? If I'm being robbed, I call the police, not Picasso. If I have a fire at my house, I'll call the fire department, not some art fair dropout from Germany. If I have a blank spot on my wall, I'll go to Kmart or some starving artist show at the Holiday Inn, but I'm in no hurry.


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 1:22 a.m.

@hut hut "Driesetl's piece is art by any sane person's definition." I'm sorry, I didn't realize you get to decide what is art and what isn't. I also didn't know that you could diagnose sanity from a post. On the other hand the arrogance show in your post is, unfortunately typical of self appointed purveyors of good taste. Thanks for looking out for us bumpkins.

hut hut

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 9:32 p.m.

The entire concept of putting yet another fountain in front of yet another public building is what's inappropriate. It was a completely un creative concept from the beginning. I mean it's not like it's never been done before. The funding shenanigans by city managers are shameful. A council that refuses to oversee decision making within city hall is shameful. A council that rubber stamps Hieftje is inappropriate City Hall just doesn't know how to roll these things out. But it's still art, no matter what. I think it's very good.

Stuart Brown

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 9:05 p.m.

I don't care if it is art or not art; I care that it was not appropriate!

hut hut

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 8:37 p.m.

To claim that Driesetl's water sculpture is not art is not only your opinion but it's also beyond comprehension. If what he designed and others made by hand is mere decoration, he should make tiny cardboard copies and sell them at K Mart for $5. Driesetl's piece is art by any sane person's definition.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

hut hut, Herbert Dreiseitl doesn't create art He creates overly expensive decoration. You may like him and he may brighten your lawn but it isn't art. Michelangelo created art.....or maybe art is in the eye of the beholder. Michelangelo is art.

hut hut

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

Kmart and starving artists is not art. It's cheap decoration. It's no more than cutting a picture from a magazine and pinning it on the wall. You may like it and it might brighten the room, but it is not art. I have no idea where you got the info to think that Driesetl is an art fair dropout. He's a world renowned landscape architect, probably #1 in the world.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

I had a hard time just getting past the introduction. "Art is inherently controversial." No, some 'works of art' may be controversial but does that make all art controversial? Robert Mapplethorpe's photos of flowers were not controversial, but possibly some of his other photos were. Are ALL of the exhibits Mr. Cantu reports on controversial? "Most people will not present themselves as experts in math or science or engineering, but everyone is an art critic." This is not even close to my experience. I observe many more people flexing their math and science muscles than those of their art knowledge. The stereotype goes, "I don't know anything about art, but that's not art." So does that make someone a 'critic'? Only if football is your only reference. That's called 'armchair quarterbacking'; its not taken seriously. And let's look at the number of 'critics' who weigh in on your arts reporting; there are far more comments on any one football thread than on all about a specific work or exhibit (and do not confuse this as a discussion about art; it's about money). Mr. Dearing I understand that art is difficult for some people to discuss and you seem to be out of your comfort zone. Art is a product of human endeavor, not a sport. Your headline reads "Must remain vocal". Is that like cheering? I do not see where you outline how or what the supporters (of which you are one) should actually be saying. I am afraid that the competitive tone in the article defeats the message. Just what is incongruous about a conservative city embracing the arts? Do conservative leaning people not enjoy paintings, silkscreens, photos, etc. like liberal leaning people? I will have to look in the windows. You are driving a wedge between two things that are not in competition with one another. We do not need a state art rivalry. David Briegel correctly notes that is just batting at a hornet's nest, and enjoying the buzzing.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

From Tony: &quot;Most people will not present themselves as experts in math or science or engineering...&quot; Well, explain the cult of global warming, then? Lots of people claiming to understand a complex question that requires years of study, then demanding we cripple the world economy to fix it. I have no idea if it's all true, but there's enough dissent (yes, I know proponents claim that 99.99% of the scientists they &quot;approve&quot; of agree with them) that we need to study this question more and come up with a rational approach that won't bankrupt America. I don't claim to judge whether the thing in front of City Hall is good or not. But when you spend that kind of money and justify it based on a percentage of a particular &quot;bucket&quot; of money, you're insulting the taxpayers. Tax money all goes to one bucket - the government. And our political leaders have a responsibility to spend that money wisely. I think this was a case where the system itself was exposed as irresponsible.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

I am shocked by the negative reactions! Open your eyes!! Ann Arborites continue to want to live in a world class &quot;city&quot; (college town) without having to foot the bill. Ann Arborites are well traveled but apparently stay many great or even good cities don't have art? Art isn't an extra that's 'nice' to have. It is every bit as necessary as Police or Fire or Roads or Sewers. A community that values its public spaces, pays to improve them, uses local and outside viewpoints for expression is the same community that cares for its infrastructure and cares for its needy. All of these values are one and happen together, they are not mutually exclusive and this is not an &quot;either/or&quot; choice, the only answer is 'all of the above'.

Urban Sombrero

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

&quot;Art isn't an extra that's 'nice' to have. It is every bit as necessary as Police or Fire or Roads or Sewers.&quot; Seriously? Wow. Well, if you're ever robbed, or your house catches on fire, I hope you'll call Mr. Dreiseitl instead of our already strapped police and fire departments. Maybe he can &quot;art&quot; you a way out of it.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

Couldn't disagree more -- what, are you implying that Ann Arborites are somehow rubes because they can see in this financially stricken time that Public Art is probably the last thing on 99 percent of their minds? This is a town that is composed of artists, writers, musicians, academics and other art lovers more than any other I have ever lived in or most likely travel to -- but that doesn't mean that this is NOT the time to spend millions on public art. People DO NOT travel to Ann Arbor to see public art. That's a plus. A plus we can not currently afford. THey won't be traveling here at all if the bridges all fall down.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

Agreed, everybody claims to be an art critic. But nowadays, many people know science better than the scientists as well. Just think about climate change ... thanks to FOX and most Republicans, science knowledge has increased tremendously over the last ten years! We know now that climate change is a hoax ...

Robert Stone

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 6:43 p.m.

I'm pretty sure that Nobel prize laureate Freeman Dyson isn't getting his scientific knowledge from Fox News. If you don't know who I'm talking about, look it up.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

Ech - It is not a hoax, but I want someone in the science community to explain why the ice caps on Mars are receding at the same rate as those on Earth. I agree climate change exists - after all look at the early snow in Boston and New York (aren't you glad it is now called climate change instead of global warming).

Tom Wieder

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

In my private life, I am an enthusiastic purchaser of art, local and otherwise. As a citizen, I support "public art," in both senses of that phrase - art displayed in public spaces, and public spending (i.e. tax dollars) on art. The editorial, however, is wrong-headed in several respects. Art in public spaces, and the benefits it produces, can be financed through private philanthropy promoted by the city or by a combination of public and private efforts. The Grand Rapids Art Prize effort is primarily privately-funded, a distinction the editorial misses. I support including a small percentage for art in the capital budget for public facilities that the public uses – such as the new City Hall. Does it really make sense to include 1% of a sewer or water project, mostly underground infrastructure, for art? The current program does that. The idea that money spent on public art "can't be spent on public safety" is nonsense. If the city funds an infrastructure project for $10 million, and sets aside 1% for art, the project could, instead, be funded for $9.9 million. The $100,000 saved would reduce the taxes levied to pay off the construction bonds. If the city has taxing authority available under the Headlee limits, it could add that $100,000 to the public safety budgets with no difference in total taxes. If not, it could ask voters to approve a Headlee override for more public safety spending. The present system misleads the public when capital millages are put on the ballot. Voters are told they're being asked to tax themselves $10 million for road construction and repair, when they will actually be taxed $9.9 million for roads and $100,000 for art.

hut hut

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 9:20 p.m.

So Mr Stone, I suppose you get to decide what represents what taxpayers value? Also don't forget that their are residents who do not pay property ownership taxes directly, but still have rights as citizens. I predict that we are possibly coming to a time when the ability to pay taxes will be the litmus test that guarantees our rights under the Constitution. Only those who can afford to pay will get the rights of citizenship. Everyone else will be lower tier residents without full privilege. Only those with property and/or inherited wealth will be able to vote. I think we already tried that and it didn't work. &quot;Taxpayers&quot; definition: A commonly misused noun by certain individuals to tell people what they should value and on how to manage their collective monies used to support their government they elected.

Robert Stone

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 6:47 p.m.

Finally someone who gets it. If a community truly values art then individuals vote with their pocketbooks on what TYPE of art is valued by the community. Otherwise all you have is a few elitists taking people's money and spending it on stuff that doesn't even represent what taxpayers value. I don't value &quot;art&quot;, I value certain artwork that I feel is worthy of admiration. Somehow this point seems to be missing from the whole discussion.

hut hut

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 5:36 p.m.

Sadly, Council and often the administration are incredibly inept at rolling these things out. This is why, even with the best of intentions, some of their efforts come back to bite them.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 4:11 p.m.

I agree, and I think that many of us thought that the program would be directed only at large installations like the city hall when it was first announced. As such, it would have essentially added to the capital cost of the building in a way that enhanced public values. That is the way many other cities have formulated their percent for art - type programs. Good point about the Headlee limits.

sojourner truth

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 3:18 p.m.

I just thought of something. Look at the Historical Monuments all over town, which show photographs and have commentary of Ann Arbor's early history in two sided glass cases. Those are terribly expensive (about $10,000 each) and have been completely paid for with private money. Ray Detter and his committees have spent hours and hours of time asking for funding, doing research and writing commentary, and local artists and architects have created the beautiful and informative monuments. Those &quot;sculptures&quot; are not only art; they are educational!

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

Here is the sentiment that drives me crazy. &quot;That's why the city must continue to hammer home the point that money for public art comes from funds dedicated to infrastructure, and if it weren't spent on art, it would go back to those funds. It can't be spent on public safety. &quot; So what is wrong with our infrastructure funds receiving the money that they are due? Are we over-funded on infrastructure? I've been told that the City Attorney doesn't think South Haven applies here. That court decision said that money from ballot measures should be spent on what it says on the ballot (for more info, see <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>. But Council is vulnerable on this issue, as it has a ballot measure pending for streets. CM Briere sensibly tried to amend the Percent for Art ordinance to exclude those monies, but failed. I suggested in my post <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> that this may undermine public support for the millage measure. Nearly half a million dollars from the street fund has been transferred to the art program, contrary to what it says in the ballot language. Council has unwittingly made the street millage ballot into the ballot for Percent for Art.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

Here is the first link, fixed. I placed a parenthesis so that it disabled the link. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:58 p.m.

This from the same supporting city council candidates that poll after poll clearly show show do not have the support of the citizens, not really commenting on the incumbent in Ward 4 who doesn't show up for debates, etc. Vote no to all city council incumbents to bring diversity, balance, and leadership back to city hall so this issue and all the other messes can be addressed!

sojourner truth

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

Jane Lumm is for the support of police and fire protection, AND she understands where the funding for art is coming from -streets, sewage, parks, etc. The mandate is that the art, which the 1% supports, has to enhance the areas from whence it comes. How do you enhance a sewer? Ask the residents of West Park! The city council has already set aside $250,000 for art at the Fuller Street Station, which hasn't been approved or built yet. Now that is planning ahead! The majority of us are &quot;for art&quot; and the beautification of Ann Arbor, but it also makes sense to prioritize our monies and find funding sources for art, which don't take away from important infrastructure. Questioning the 1% funding should not be disparaged. I couldn't agree with &quot;Happy Senior&quot; more.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

I received my city water bill yesterday and the water and sewage rates went up. It is a travesty, that when this money is spent to repair/upkeep the water and sewer system's the art fund will skim off of it. In the end the rates are raised so we have enough money to pay 1% for art. If not for stealing 1% of the fund every time the money is allocated, we probably would not need the raise in rates.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:45 p.m.

Can't for the life of me find a way to agree with the opinion here -- and I come from a background that loves arts, I consider myself arts-literate, and I would like to find a way to make sure that arts are represented, and artists remain employed. But when we can't pay our policemen and firemen; when teacher hiring levels are at a bare minimum in Ann Arbor; when schools are forced to cut programs (including ARTS PROGRAMS); when bridges that carry hundreds of thousands a week are falling down; when every other artform in Ann Arbor is struggling to survive (theater, symphony, etc) I absolutely can not agree with this opinion. No matter how passionately plead here, I simply can not agree. Sorry. I disagree with your opinion. And I don't support it.

Kai Petainen

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:37 p.m.

i'm not against art. art is important, but use private money and donations. ann arbor has a LOT of art -- look in the UofM buildings and you'll find it (and probably most of that is from donations). money from the water fund was used to fund art. it's an insult. there was mold in the basement at city hall -- that is water-based, use water fund money to fix public safety issues... like the mold. there was an oil spill last year, it is still unsolved and that went into the river -- a public safety water issue. use water fund money to solve that old public safety issue, upgrade equipment, or give money to the fire fighters / dps who worked on cleaning that mess. water fund money should be used for water-based safety problems. it should not be used to fund water-based art. public safety first, water fund art projects last.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:23 p.m.

Have you ever written an article critiquing the administration?

Tony Keene

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:03 p.m.

Let's build the Skate Park with the Art fund. For the record "Public Art" is inherently controversial; because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, however public funds are spent according to ones own values and how much money is in the coffers. A2 was a bit late to catch the public art wave, however one thing is clear about this situation, there is some cash in this here public fund and everyone wants it. So without hesitation and minus the usual political bullying and shenanigans we are all guilty of… the people of Ann Arbor should insist it be used to build the skate park, immediately. Here is why. First – it will stimulate the local economy as a "shovel ready project" Second – skateboards and spray paint cans frequently end up in the same closets. Creating a public rotating mural/graffiti arts space within the skate park would surely fix our downtown graffiti issue. Third – It is very much a sculpture on a grand scale that is interactive and accessible to many who otherwise might not be exposed to "Art". Fourth – I dare anyone who would actually criticize the usage of funds such as these to ensure public safety and cultural well being through the enrichment of our youth? Fifth – you know you are right when Eric Cantor is criticizing a municipality for building a skate park with stimulus money, (currently on the "whipping post" site.) – evidently skate parks are not very republican, so we should all agree on this one in A2.

Tom Whitaker

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 5:41 p.m.

Great idea! I would add that the skate park could be built in Fuller Park, instead of that parking structure the mayor is pushing for. Heck, they've already relocated the sewer line out of the way for it. It's shovel-ready!


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:46 p.m.

Half of Ann Arbor is Republican -- so we will NOT agree on this one


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 1:48 p.m.

Ann Arbor is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and unfortunately Peter is our police, fire department, and city services, etc. If the city wants more art then start soliciting it from the community via fundraising, bake sales, you name it just not the way we are doing it now. This almost smacks of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Hyperbole aside, we would LIKE more art, but we NEED more crime and fire protection.

Ron Granger

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 1:38 p.m.

I support the funds for art. However, the program must be re-configured. It has been very poorly managed. It lacks transparency. There must be more public access and influence on the process. It is too beholden to City Hall in where it spends our art dollars. Stop squandering our art funds in and around city hall! Enough!

Marilyn Wilkie

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 1:29 p.m.

sorry for my crappy typing in my was early. (lame excuse)

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

It seems to me there are enough &quot;artsy&quot; people with cash in this town that &quot;our&quot; art could and should be funded by private sector sponsorship and private sector endowments.

Marilyn Wilkie

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:57 p.m.

&quot;That's why the city must continue to hammer home the point that money for public art comes from funds dedicated to infrastructure, and if it weren't spent on art, it would go back to those funds. &quot; I see this as new Ann Arbor Vs. Old Ann Arbor. New Ann Arbor wants a slick, pretty face and to show off, old Ann Arbor wanted to take care of business by using public funds for necessary maintenance and improvements. What goofed is a pretty face if the streets are an crumbling, the park is neglected and flooding, the bridges become dangerous. As I said before, it's a &quot;et them eat cake&quot; mentality.

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:50 p.m.

<a href=""></a> While our infrastructure falls apart...

David Cahill

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:34 p.m.

This editorial sets for several weak arguments in support of the program. It also mentions the strongest argument against it: 56% of voters in's own opt-in poll think it should be done away with altogether. Vox populi, vox dei.


Mon, Oct 31, 2011 : 10:42 a.m.

David, I'm sure you can understand that there's no reason to think any of the polls here are representative of Ann Arbor residents or voters. They're not random polls, and they're not limited to Ann Arbor residents. Why would you want Ann Arbor to be ruled by a self-selected cadre of non-residents?

Wolf's Bane

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:34 p.m.

Art. Like all cultural contributions has its place within a society and is an indepth reflection on a culture's priorities and values. However, in this case, a few things went horribly wrong: 1. The city hired an outsider to speak for Ann Arbor and its citizens. Very bad. 2. The city spent money, it couldn't afford, on securing this outsider and his work. Really dumb move. 3. The city is handling the backlash very poorly. This smack of Heritage Row all over again. On a personal note, I value art perhaps more than most, but in this case we shouldn't have startedccessorizing our city whilst curtailing spending on necessities, e.g. Fire, Police.

average joe

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:34 p.m.

&quot;...communities are enthusiastically promoting the arts as a way to boost economic development...&quot; Can anyone give me proof that art (alone) promotes economic development? 'Let's go to a restaurant in downtown aa because they have art....' Admittedly, I am not a fan of art, but I am a big fan of safe streets...


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:28 p.m.

How about we put it to a vote, Tony? You know, instead of a back-door, after the fact skimming on millages that voters approved for other *specific* purposes. Let's vote with votes, not with how &quot;vocal&quot; the supporters can be.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

I call &quot;baloney&quot; on this. If there is anything municipal government should not be funding, its &quot;art'for the sake of 'more public art'. Not measurable, not report-able and therefor - not accountable and therefor - not appropriate for a municipal government. Further, Ann Arbor has plenty of art. Why do this? Why create the committee/commission. Why create the tax? Why create the mess.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

Since you dragged Dick DeVos in to this by siting ArtPrize, of which he is the primary sponsor, I have a win win suggestion for you Mr Dearing. How about you toss in a dollar for public art. Then go find 7 other people to throw in a dollar. Then have those 7 people find 7 more people to throw in a dollar. Art will be funded in no time without a dime coming from a tax payer filled &quot;bucket&quot; &quot;public art comes from funds dedicated to infrastructure, and if it weren't spent on art, it would go back to those funds. It can't be spent on public safety...... Anyone who seeks to pit the two against each other either doesn't understand the issue or is being disingenuous.&quot; Your &quot;bucket argument&quot; is disingenuous Mr. Dearing. All the city council needs to do is repeal the art law, and reallocate the buckets at budget time. Once the 1% for art is gone they can just move 1% from infrastructure to public safety the next time a budget is drawn up. As to your argument that art is some sort of magnet for our city I seriously question that . I doubt most people who live here or visit here can describe any of our public art. Nor would their visit or choice of residence hinge on that art.

Robert Stone

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

Some people seem to think that this city is about art just because of the art fair, however the city is really just nothing more than a generic convention center for an event which ultimately doesn't have much more to do with the city than an event has to do with the convention center where its hosted.

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

This is part of the Request For Proposals for the Allmendinger Park Mural Project posted on the City website: &quot;The mural's Project Development Task Force hosted a public input forum in May 2011. Allmendinger Park neighbors and surrounding residents were notified of the meeting. Following the meeting, a small survey of those attending gave us suggestions of mural concepts, themes, and imagery. The following is a summary of those suggestions:&quot; &quot;Local diversity, local culture, the local political viewpoint&quot; So can, the Mayor or the Ann Arbor Public Art Commission explain why instructions on adhering to 'the local political viewpoint' would go out to any artist bidding on the project? That kind of 'political correctness' is dangerous and chilling. Is the Mayor comfortable with that TOO?


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:03 p.m.

I also disagree with you. City infrastructure needs have been mismanaged for years. Examples include road conditions and basements that flood with lots more money collected to fix the systems. Storm sewer rates alone went up several hundred percent in the last few years. City administrators have been able to add the cost of art to city water and sewer projects with a straight face. Return the art funds to fix more water and sewer needs and hopefully the new city administrator can see to it that those funds are efficiently used. I hope when the university musical society brings in the Berlin Philharmonic, state funds and tuition dollars are not used to pay for the &quot;1%&quot; who have enough money to pay for admission to attend the event. I think protest wall street needs to consider hidden taxes like this art program that send money to the elitists. The wealthy few who will interact with the German artist at the unveiling party and sip champagne at taxpayer expense talking about how wonderful it looks...When the German artist traveled to Ann Arbor, I assume we paid for airfare, hotel, and probably some nice meals. Money that could have been used to help our poor homeless living right in town that may instead use the fountain as an outdoor urinal. We object because we have serious needs at home. We keep paying more for services and getting less. The mayor and most city council members, the only people who seem to support the program, have been very vocal with their support.

Urban Sombrero

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:59 a.m.

Art IS great for a city. I'll give you that. I think it, ultimately, is important. But, I don't care how much gorgeous, expensive, beautiful art is in a city, if its infrastructure is failing, that city is a failure. It's ridiculous to spend money on sculptures while your roads are falling apart and your police and fire departments are being gutted. It's all about priorities. In Ann Arbor, I believe that ours (according to City Council) are completely wrong.

David Briegel

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:56 a.m.

Maybe could have led this &quot;cacophony&quot; in a more effective manner had they published this opinion in Aug. There has been so much misinformation and confusion right here on that it is virtually useless as a tool for discussion. You did one piece quoting members of the art and architecture community and none of them reflect the &quot;cacophony&quot; that you fueled right here on Do us a favor and don't wait till you've fanned the flames and sowed the seeds before you lead from behind!

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

It's surprising Mr. Chamberlin didn't contribute to this editorial decision from her comments at the last AAPAC meeting on the prep for briefing Council on the program: Ann Arbor Chonicle: &quot;Marsha Chamberlin reported that someone recently drew a parallel between the city's public art program and the University Musical Society. Should UMS only bring Michigan artists to perform? Of course not – they bring the highest quality, most imaginative performers to the city, and the Percent for Art program should do the same for public art. "We don't want to be xenophobic about art," Chamberlin said.&quot; &quot;But we challenge the thinking that there's something wrong with commissioning work from outside the city or state. Should the University Musical Society not bring the Berlin Philharmonic to Hill Auditorium because it's not made up of local performers?&quot; I don't remember a Berlin Philharmonic One Per Cent Tax on building the Stadium Bridges. Maybe you can track that down for us?

Robert Stone

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 6:59 p.m.

Exactly... Who's money is paying for UMS and who's making the decisions? That would be PRIVATE FUNDS being donated to a group where the donors approve of the decision maker's decisions. Last I heard, UMS wasn't stealing money from people and making decisions for them. &quot;5. Ticket revenues cover only half of our total costs. We rely on generous support from individual donors, corporations, foundations, government grants, and the University of Michigan to continue to bring the finest performing artists in the world to Michigan. We know that people choose to donate for any number of reasons: engaging more deeply in the arts, networking with others, and providing memorable arts experiences for children are just a few of the frequently stated motivations. We're grateful to all of our generous donors!&quot;


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

Drop this joke of a program. I'm sick of being fleeced. Toss the greenbelt fiasco at the same time. I'm sick of the farmers laughing at how stupid we are. I'm even more sick of them being right.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

I SO agree with you -- and will vote for you if you run for City Council.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:48 a.m.

Art is nice Police officers are necessary Firemen are necessary Stealing more than 2 million from necessary services is enough

Wolf's Bane

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 12:35 p.m.

Agreed and well put!

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:41 a.m.

And with the tens of thousands of members of the 'community' you have the chair of the AAPAC as the community member of your Editorial Board? No further questions of this witness your honor. Lol. Such choices have been commonplace in the past.

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:30 a.m.

So you were fine with the behind closed door, secret dealings with the City Building German water art that included private meetings with the artist and a process that wasn't open to bidding and input from the public? Where was then? The proposal was made to cut the amount to 1/2 per cent for a couple of years and the entire 'arts' community screamed and whined about how everyone against art was somehow a Tea Party heathen. Where were you then? Where were you when the AAPAC stacked the vetting committee with political buddies and contributors of the Mayor and gave the nearly million dollar project a rubber stamp? Where was when the Mayor spoke at the unveiling and called people opposed to the project 'haters'? Where were you when he responded to an Ann Arbor Chronicle question about why local artists weren't given preference and took ANOTHER legal opinion for another issue and the ex-real estate agent REWROTE the opinion and tried to quote Constitutional Law in defense of the restriction? And where were you went members of Council have been trying to get a WRITTEN legal opinion form the City Attorney on the arts tax and the Mayor and Council Mayor have been opposed to it at every step. I'm glad you give it 'apologetically support'. Just wish you and your staff of 'reporters' would do the same for investigative, watch-dog journalism. When will we see that, as you promised the community when debuted? Here let me help: Questions for The Mayor: 1. When will the City Attorney issue a legal opinion about the legality of the arts tax? 2. Will the Mayor share how he came up with his own legal opinion on the illegality of restricting part of the art dollars going to local artists, since he has no legal training or background? 3. What does he mean by the term 'haters', a word used at the Art Fountain dedication but unreported by


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11 a.m.

ArtPrize was started by Rick DeVos as a privately funded opportunity to connect artists worldwide with specific commercial venues within the City of Grand Rapids. It has corporate and foundation sponsors. It is not funded by &quot;1 percent of the money spent on capital projects in the city is set aside for public art somewhere in the city.&quot; Can you sort out the difference? The &quot;cacophony of criticism&quot; you demean comes from people concerned about and opposed to spending tax money on public art when public and private budgets are failing, core city services are in decline, and all levels of government are looking to increase the tax burden on citizens.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 3:27 p.m.

I will respect Mr. Dearings opinion when he makes reasonable comparisons. Comparing privately funded art to publicly funded art is not reasonable

hut hut

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

Concerning Art Prize. The majority of art has declined in quality as the event took on more of a (drunken) party atmosphere. IT's now to the point that, for good or bad, it's more of a party event than an arts event. Unless Art Prize changes its ways it will continue to deline in not only the art but the artistic ambience of the event. So goes the &quot;art&quot; so goes Art Prize.


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11 a.m.

Cops,Firemen,Then Art


Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 10:39 a.m.

Couldn't disagree with you more.

David Briegel

Sun, Oct 30, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

You certainly have enlightened us!